Word Magazine February 1989 Page 16
YOU ARE A HOLY NATION
by Archpriest George M. Rados
Usually when we hear the word “Nation”, we immediately associate it with our own country, the good old USA or Canada, or the country of our ancestry, be it Syria, Greece, Rumania, Serbia, Russia or wherever. We seldom associate nationhood with the Church, or if anything at all, it becomes entangled and complicated with theological jargon, so much so, that we disassociate it with our thinking as regards nationhood.
The Prophet Hosea had excoriated his people for their infidelity to the God of Israel and branded his own children with names that pronounced the divine judgment. “Not my people”, (Lo-ammi) was the name he fastened upon his younger son to remind all his neighbors that the nation had betrayed God and was no longer worthy to be called his son. They were a people who had lost their identity, a family without a father, a Church without a leader.
A long time afterward an early Church worker seized upon Hosea’s words to declare the true identity of new people who had found themselves and knew to whom they belonged. Listen again to his description of the new community called the Church:
But ye are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; ones who had not received mercy, but now who have received mercy.
Perhaps that is the story of the Church through the ages — of oscillating between the roles of “not my people” to “God’s own people”; running after false lovers and stumbling back to the true lover; setting down among the inhabitants of land and then leaving home and striking out to look for a better country; being satisfied for a time with the cities of men and then discovering again that it is a refugee people in search of a new kind of city.
In every new crisis of faith — and this is certainly such a time — the communities known as the Church are forced to reaffirm their identity and declare themselves, as hopefully we are doing now.
Is it any wonder why we in the Orthodox Church identify with the suffering humans in the Middle East and other places on the globe such as the earthquake victims in Armenia? I identify not because the NAAA, the AAUG, the ADC, and others tell me that I am an Arab by virtue of my Syrian ancestry — because Jiddie came from Arnie and Sittie came from Majdal Shams; I identify because I am a citizen of the Holy Nation transcended and unbounded by space and time, indeed universal, and very much concerned with the human predicament of God’s creation on earth.
Now, you and I, members of this holy nation, ought to take a sober look at human history and the predicament of the human race. There are some tough facts to confront, because to do less would be not only irresponsible but also cowardly.
The truth is that for numberless ages we have separated ourselves by clan and creed and color, by tribe and language and nationality. Because of this separation, we have suffered and we have bled. We have squandered the natural resources of God’s good earth, and, even more tragically, we have wasted the precious resources of the human mind and spirit in civil strife, wars and revolutions. Now we have reached a point in the development of the techniques of mass destruction when every thoughtful and responsible person in this world is compelled to confront the major issue before all of mankind; we shall either learn to live together, or we shall truly die together.
The world nation is inescapably one whether we wish it to be or not. Through communication, transportation, and a power to destroy that is beyond ordinary imagination we are all bound together. The islands of the world are no more. There is no isolation. What is left to us is total accessibility. And our holy nation, the Church militant and triumphant is charged with the responsibility of lifting fallen Adam to the ascended Christ by exercising theological and social leadership. In the Church, we know who we are, whose we are, and why we are. Therefore, we certainly have some sense of direction as the people of God.
Surely, unless humanity is filled with a new compassion, touched by a new mercy, and moved by a new sense of justice — all that the saints and scholars, poets and prophets have loved and cherished all wither and die or be destroyed in the convulsive use of absurd madness. As Christians we have no other choice but to search unceasingly for a better way in our community, in the common lives of our beloved country, and, indeed, in the world family of man.
How shall we do this?
In telling you the following story you may consider it to be a parable. Once a lovely little child strayed away from her home. It was a bitter cold winter day. The alarm sounded, and neighbors and friends turned out to look for the lost child. They combed the woods; they walked by the lake side; they went through the fields. They did not find her. Then, as the night began to fall, one man suggested that they join hands and stand together as they moved forward. On the way they found the little girl, her body frozen and dead. In the hush of that moment, someone said with a sob, as if to himself: “Why, oh why, didn’t we join hands sooner?”
Fr. George M. Rados is pastor of St’s. Peter and Paul Church in Bethesda, Maryland.